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Renlund keeps her focus on clients

By: Justin Kern//June 12, 2014//

Renlund keeps her focus on clients

By: Justin Kern//June 12, 2014//

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Renlund-Cari-AnneCari Anne Renlund can remember the case that put her firmly on the path toward becoming an attorney.

She was a paralegal for the Department of Justice when it took on massive food-commodities corporation Archer Daniels Midland in a price-fixing case. She worked full time on that case and each morning watched as reporters from The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times camped out where Archer Daniels execs entered the Chicago federal courthouse accompanied by legal teams from Steptoe & Johnson LLP and other international law firms.

Renlund, now a shareholder at Madison-based DeWitt, Ross & Stevens SC, said the case and resulting trial, which inspired the movie “The Informant,” dissolved any intimidation she might have felt about paying off law school debt and removed any concerns she might have had about doing provocative work.

“It was an incredible thing to watch,” said Renlund, who still meets annually with DOJ and FBI members to commemorate the win. “I was 25, wide-eyed. I’m from a teeny town in Marathon County.

“What a great opportunity to see the case in that detail.”

Renlund left that case before it ended to attend the University of Wisconsin Law School. She graduated in 2001 and took a job with DeWitt.

Renlund stayed at DeWitt until 2004, she said, and then followed the advice of her mentor, attorney Peter Peshek, and delved into government work. She was a staff attorney for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation during the state’s largest road project, the Marquette Interchange, and was a legal link for the Department of Administration to the administrations of Govs. Jim Doyle and Scott Walker.

Bridging political alliances was not easy, Renlund said, but she stayed focused on the letter of Wisconsin law.

“My approach was that I’m not a policymaker,” she said. “The people chose (the governors) to do that. I’m here to help them achieve that policy legally.”

Renlund stepped out of government and back into the offices of DeWitt in June 2011, but her focus on helping the client remained. Bradley Raaths, the firm’s managing partner and president, said that focus prompted Renlund to politely shoo him away one recent morning.

She was reviewing a client’s brief with what Raaths said is the same attention she gives to any case.

“By no stretch is she someone who’s impersonal or not social, but when she’s in the heat of the moment, she’s singular in focus,” he said. “She makes clients feel like they’re her highest priority, even if she’s juggling things.”

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